5 reasons why Open Water swimming is an absolute must!
When you think of what to do after work or how to start your weekends, you probably don’t automatically go to donning a wetsuit and jumping into a lake. You’re tired, achy and possibly quite stressed, wanting nothing more than to curl up under the duvet and sleep for a week. But it is precisely these times that your mind and body can really benefit from open water swimming and these are just a few reasons why.
You can’t constantly dose yourself with G&Ts, soak in a bubble bath or zen yourself out with meditation and yoga every day of the week, and if you’ve got kids you’re probably already stretched for “me time”. Exercise is proven to help with stress relief, but the idea of a busy, loud, sweaty gym does not bring relaxation to mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to wash away the stress to leave you feeling revitalised without turning into a very drunk, unproductive wrinkled prune? But you can! All you need is an hour to do a lap at the lake. No rush, no competition, no judgement, and no repercussions!
The science behind this is cold water stimulates the parasympathetic system, which helps your body rest and repair itself. This is opposed to the sympathetic system known as the fight or flight response. Engaging the parasympathetic system releases dopamine and serotonin, and in non-scientific terms, makes you feel happy. Your body’s weightlessness in the water also helps relax your muscles when you’ve been hunched over a desk all day, plus stress usually materialised somewhere on your body (anyone else left with just one raised eyebrow looking slightly demented?)
I have a gym card and a Starbucks card – and only one of those gets used once a week (I keep the Borehamwood store open- you’re welcome). We all know we should move more and be active after a day at the office, but I am never one of those people that look forward to going to the gym! Swimming is, without question, an effective way to burn calories AND gentle on problem areas like knees or lower back, so a great option even if you’re plagued with injury. Swimming in cold water is much better for burning calories than an indoor pool as your body works every single muscle and is trying to stay warm, so you are increasing muscle tone and endurance at the same time. Plus, releasing dopamine and serotonin promotes a good night sleep (screaming child dependent).
3. Pain relief
I’ve already touched on it with muscle relaxation, but there is nothing worse than trying to do exercise and your body throwing a tantrum right back at you. Trying to run or cycle? Don’t be silly- that’s a 100% NOPE from the knees, and the ankles aren’t on board either. But don’t be disheartened – high impact exercise can be jarring to joints, so don’t stop exercising, just change it. “Water therapy”…also known as swimming to us common folk, unweights joints and helps realign the body without any back cracking or weekly trips to a physio. So just floating like a lazy seal counts as looking after yourself! Many talk about the ‘high’ they get from cold water swimming, caused by the endorphin rush from the sudden change in temperature. Released by your body to take the sting of the cold away from your skin, they are natural pain killers – though do think twice when you get a headache walking along the Thames before you take the plunge in full work attire, we do not sanction this.
Being hot brings blood to surface. Being cold sends it to your organs. Both extremes work your heart like a pump. SCIENCE. But here’s the beauty benefit of it: by flushing your circulation, it will exfoliate your skin and remove impurities from it, thus helping your complexion and reducing cellulite. It also boosts your hormone levels, and though you could do this in the shower by switching between the hot and cold taps, it’s not nearly as fun! I’ll leave you to do the science…..
5. Having fun with friends!
You’ll find a lot of likeminded people at open water swimming, were all as mad as each other! It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro or just want to dip your toe in – everyone is welcome, and you do as much or as little as you want to! Nobody will judge your speed, age, outfit choice, size, or hair after all – this is not high school. And once you’re done, grab a coffee or drink at the bar and catch up on how “adulting” is going.
Why Open water over pool swimming?
And if you read this and thought, great, well I’ll just head down to my local pool, why is swimming in a freshwater lake better than a chlorinated pool. This is easy to answer and requires no scientific explanation. Would you rather bright lights, pool lanes & walls, lane hoggers, pushy swimmers, chemicals and splashing kids….or would you like to swim at your own pace, in a natural environment in your own little world? Hint: it’s the second one – time for yourself is often overlooked, but probably one of the most important factors to a happy life.